Army to cut 1,200 in Hawaii

The military’s plan to shrink the size of the Army — which will reduce spending by several billion dollars — will not affect the island of Kauai, Army officials said Thursday.

The Army announced Wednesday that a cut of 40,000 active duty soldiers will result in savings of $7 billion over the course of four years: a reduction that will bring the Army’s numbers down to 450,000.

“It shouldn’t affect Kauai at all,” said Dennis Drake, Schofield Barracks director of public affairs. “We don’t train over there; we don’t have any soldiers over there.”

However, the Army said it will reduce the number of soldiers at Schofield Barracks on Oahu by 1,200, as the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team will become an infantry brigade combat team.

“The Army is an integral part of our community, and I am pleased that the announced reductions are not as severe as they might have been,” Gov. David Ige said in statement Thursday. “We continue to monitor the potential loss of some of our civilian workforce and an additional round of planned reductions in 2017. My administration will make the retention of our current force levels a priority.”

U.S. Army Pacific said the changes to the Schofield unit will improve training opportunities with partners and allies and increase readiness.

A portion of the Army’s 40,000-troop reduction would be achieved through attrition and adjustments to recruiting, but an undetermined number of soldiers — officers as well as enlisted — would be forced out of uniform, the Army said.

Drake could not comment on how the reduction will affect recruitment on Kauai, but said the chances a recruit from Kauai would be stationed back in the islands were low.

“Army recruiters recruit for the total Army – not specifically for Kauai,” he said. “If you join the army, your chances of coming to Hawaii from Hawaii is probably one in a 100. Based upon the current size of the force, recruiting would adjust their numbers for the whole Army.”

The Army’s civilian workforce would be cut by as many as 17,000 over the four-year period.

If a new round of automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, goes ahead in the budget years beginning Oct. 1, the Army says it will have to reduce even further to 420,000 soldiers by 2019.

Sen. Brian Schatz, who serves on the Senate Defense Appropriation Subcommittee, said the Army had been considering possibly eliminating two Brigade Combat Teams and the 25th Infantry Division Headquarters, which would have meant the departure of nearly 16,000 soldiers. But those plans have been put on hold pending future action to address sequestration.

“We have been able to protect the vast majority of the soldiers here in Hawaii. Given the magnitude of the cuts that were contemplated, we are relieved that the worst case scenario did not occur,” Schatz said.

David Carey, Hawaii Military Affairs Council chairman, said he’s pleased with the announcement as personnel reduction in Hawaii “could have been more significant.”

“This is good news for the state, as the military is a major economic contributor, supporting more than 100,000 jobs and generating $12.2 billion for the state’s economy,” he said. “Through our collective efforts, we will be vigilant in working to maintain the current level of military personnel.”

The biggest cuts would be to an infantry unit at Fort Benning, Georgia, and an airborne infantry unit at Fort Richardson in Alaska. Each would shrink from about 4,000 soldiers to about 1,050, defense officials said Wednesday.

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Staff writer Ryan Kazmirzack and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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